18 July 2015

Sec... archi-sec

So far in July, we've had 5 millimeters of rain. That's two-tenths of an inch. Normally, we would have had six or seven times more than that. And it's been hot. Yesterday it was only about 86ºF, but the day before it was close to 99.

That's one thing about this area of France: the weather is seldom boring. You never know whether it will rain every day for weeks on end, washing out the summer, or whether you'll get long dry spells of hot weather like this one. We hardly had any rainfall in May or June either.

Certain plants
seem to be thriving
in these conditions.
 I've never seen
so many bright blue
wild chicory flowers
all around
the vineyard.
And as you can
see in the photos
above and below,
the grapevines
are bright green
and happy-looking.

I've been focused on
Paris for quite a while
here on the blog,
posting all the photos
I took there nearly
two months ago.
For the weekend, here
are some photos that
I took yesterday morning
on my walk with Callie.

And there is one very surprising photo in the bunch. Look at this dead snake that I saw out in the vineyard yesterday morning. Actually, it's been there for three or four days. I never in my life imagined that there were snakes of this size lurking in and around the edges of the vineyard. It looks like somebody cut the snake's head off with a shovel. Or do you think some animal like a badger might have killed it? It's at least three feet — close to a meter — long. And that's just what remains of the thing.

Here's a photo our house and two of the neighbors' taken from about a kilometer out in the vineyard. Ours is the newer house with the dark brown roof. The other two, with more reddish tile roofs, are old farmhouses. This photo is looking out over the Cher River valley to the highlands on the other side.


  1. Crazy weather. We had 97°F the other day, but 70°s a few days before that, and 80°s today. Tomorrow will be 90°s again.
    I hope I don't find a big dead (or living) snake in MY yard! :)

  2. What I know about snakes could be written on the head of a pin, but I think this snake is a couleuvre, grass snake which is non venomous. I don't know why somebody would have killed it since it is completely harmless.

    1. The ident is spot on chm... Grass Snake, and as you say, totally 'armless....
      and legless, too...
      in fact it is a gardeners' friend... and therefore vignerons' also....
      it will feed on rodents, frogs, slugs and insects... especially the rodents.
      In answer to Ken's surmise... I think the first thought may well be correct...
      superstition still abounds, especially amongst rural folk...
      a badger wouldn't have left it...
      a bird of prey... most likely a buzzard... if it had dropped it, would have retrieved it...
      but the workers are out early at the moment... whilst the snake is still cold and sluggish...
      it couldn't have made a quick get away...
      what a shame... it looks like it was a mature female... possibly looking for somewhere to lay her eggs.
      And yes, Ken, there will be others out there... it is just that, in most cases, we never see them....
      they nip back into the undergrowth smartish... even vipers are more wary of us than we are of them!

    2. I've seen couleuvres or grass snakes around here before, but I never imagined that they got so big.

    3. This is an average sized adult. They can get longer, but are usually around the 1m mark.

    4. Couleuvre seems to be about as specific a term as serpent. There are a multitude of different snakes called couleuvres that don't look at all alike in coloring or scale patterns and that come in various sizes. Maybe it's this one, la coronelle lisse, but the page I'm linking to says it's smaller than 1 meter long — just 60 to 70 cm. The "grass" or "garter" snakes we had in North Carolina were a lot smaller. But then there are many very large snakes in N.C., both venomous and non-venomous — rattlers, king snakes, etc.

    5. I think couleuvre is the French family name for that kind of snakes. Vipères, for instance, belong to another family of snakes.

    6. I don't find any mention of families of snakes. "Families" I guess can be a way of distinguishing venomous snakes from non-venomous snakes, but there are venomous couleuvres too.

  3. I think your snake is a European Grass Snake Natrix natrix. The other possibility, because it's difficult to be absolutely certain based on your photo is a Western Whip Snake Hierophis viridis. Both are couleuvres or serpents. Couleuvre refers specifically to grass snakes, serpent to snakes in general but in practice usually means a non-venomous snake like a grass snake. People use the term vipere when they mean a venomous snake and when they are specifically talking about asps and vipers Berus spp. WWS can also locally be called cinglards. My observation would be that WWS are more abundant here than EGS.

    1. EGS are couleuvre à collier in French, WWS are couleuvre verte et jaune. Both are what most snake people would still refer to as Colubrid snakes (ie grass snakes) but in fact taxonomically they are now in two separate families. And vipers Vipera spp are another family again. (For berus in the above comment read vipera -- berus is the specific name of the common adder and I was having a dyslexic moment.)

    2. I think it's the term "grass snake" that is confusing. In North America, grass snakes are one kind of small Colubridae, measuring 30 cm (12 inches). Other Colubridae snakes are not called grass snakes but go by a variety of other names. Some of them can be as large as the snake I saw out in the vineyard here. Maybe what you call "grass snakes" in the UK includes a lot of species that in the U.S. are called by other names.

    3. Wikipedia says: The Colubridae (from Latin coluber, snake) are a family of snakes. With 304 genera and 1,938 species,[citation needed] Colubridae is the largest snake family, and includes about two-thirds of all living snake species.

  4. are there any poisonous snakes in france?? i think not but not sure....we certainly have copperheads & rattle snakes here in NC but havent seen any this year, yet.....always wear big boots when working in the undergrowth tho

    1. Good idea about the heavyweight boots if you are working in brush in N.C. I think N.C. has more poisonous snakes than any other part of the U.S. (or at least as many as any other place).

    2. And yes, there are some poisonous snakes in France, but not all that many any more. People here still worry about encounters with vipers, however.

  5. Your weather is sounding a lot like our NC weather. Do you get the stifling humidity along with the heat?

    The one thing I dislike about summer is snakes. I did not see a one last year in my yard, but I've seen about 5 including a copperhead this year. I don't mind them so much if they just slither around the marsh, but they like to crawl on my patio and get in my flower pots and get on the porch. I was walking up on the porch a few years ago and there was one stretch out as long as the sliding glass door by the door. I nearly died right there! Year before last there was another that big on the porch. He was even peeping in the door. I've wondered if it was the same one. I found a nontoxic snake repellant that seems to work fairly good. The only problem is it is expensive and you have to reapply it after a rain. Don't you have a poisonous adder in France? I don't think they are as aggressive as our poisonous snakes here.

    ps. I've enjoyed touring Paris!

    1. There are a lot of poisonous and non-poisonous snakes in coastal Carolina, so you do have to be careful. My sister, who lives out in the country not far from where you are, has seen quite a few in and around her house over the past 30 years. Be careful. I think you are right about the poisonous snakes in France being less aggressive than the North American species.

  6. Yikes ! That is a big snake ! That is the thing about Nature .. the part I don't like ... big snakes and spiders.
    I live 3 hours north of New York City. It is never hot here .. warm, sunny, beautiful but not terribly hot. I am loving that.
    But it still doesn't make up for all the snow.
    Meanwhile, I live in the country- I have not seen a snake lately. hmmmm


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?